[Education and Welfare] Missouri Senate passes spending plan that restores money for blind
dhuff at moblind.org
Wed Apr 25 13:55:58 CDT 2012
Missouri Senate passes spending plan that restores money for blind
BY ELIZABETH CRISP . ecrisp at post-dispatch.com > 573-635-6178
| Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 2:33 am
The Missouri Senate has approved a budget plan that calls for full funding
of a long-standing health care program for the blind.
The House had stripped funding for the program, which covers some 2,800
blind Missourians, to stave off further cuts to higher education in its own
recommendation last month.
The two sides must resolve their differences in conference, but the Senate's
action late Tuesday leaves the door open for negotiations.
Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, had planned to use
$18 million from unanticipated Medicaid payments to cover part of the
He said the other $10 million could be recouped through a system modeled
after health insurance for state workers that requires deductibles and
"This is a way that nobody gets cut," Schaefer said, but the proposal was
panned by advocates for the blind.
In an 18-16 vote, senators Tuesday opted to restore full funding under the
current program requirements.
Sen. Jim Lembke, a Republican from Lemay who sponsored the amendment to
restore funding, said the Legislature has been able to find money for other
"It's just about priorities," he said.
Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said he also took issue with cutting
aid to blind Missourians.
"We are so broke that blind people are the problem?" he said.
The funding for the blind was among several proposals that senators have had
to work through this week as they tried to pass a $24 billion spending plan
for the budget year that begins July 1.
After appearing to be locked in an impasse on Monday and early Tuesday,
senators worked Tuesday night - staying until 2:30 a.m. to pass budget
Lawmakers nearly hit another snag Tuesday night when they reached a vote
over state employee pay raises, but eventually moved past the disagreement.
The Senate's budget proposal includes 2 percent increases for employees who
make less than $45,000 a year.
A group of senators tried to remove the raises, but that amendment was
defeated in a 17-15 vote after a nearly two-hour debate.
"What we are all struggling with is the reality that there are greater
demands in the state of Missouri than we have resources," said Crowell, who
against the increase. "These are difficult decisions."
Schaefer defended the increase proposal, which is a scaled-back version of a
plan approved by the House. The House recommendation would have increased
for state workers who make below $70,000.
"The idea was really to find people who are at the low end," Schaefer said,
noting that prison guards and people who work with the developmentally
will be the ones to benefit. "If you wanna keep those people working you've
gotta pay more."
Reflecting on the budget process, which included several starts and stops
and had lawmakers at the Capitol past midnight Monday and Tuesday, Schaefer
there is still a lot to be resolved as lawmakers prepare for negotiations
between the House and Senate. The conference committees could meet as early
next week, he said.
"I'd say we're about halfway through," he said. "There are always a lot of
changes in conference ... This is not the final product."
Elizabeth Crisp covers Missouri politics.
Denny Huff- President
Missouri Council of the Blind
P: (636) 262-1383
TF: (888) 362-1383
F: (314) 558-0298
Phone Cast: (816) 298-8969
DHuff at MoBlind.Org
The purpose of Missouri Council of the Blind shall be to promote the general
well-being of our members and legally blind people in Missouri, and to
or participate in other programs promoting the best interests of legally
blind people everywhere.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE JOURNEY
Your host: Denny Huff
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